Police: California bank robber linked to 2 heists
- Article by: SCOTT SMITH
- Associated Press
- July 20, 2014 - 7:25 PM
FRESNO, California — Police in Stockton, California, confirmed Sunday that a bank robber killed in a recent police shootout and hostage situation was among those suspected in an earlier heist at the same bank branch.
Alex Gregory Martinez, a 27-year-old who died Wednesday in a shootout that also killed a bank customer taken hostage, had been among those who robbed the Bank of the West on Jan. 31, Officer Joe Silva said.
Detectives linked Martinez to the two robberies through surveillance video, witness statements and comparing circumstances, Silva said. In both cases, the robbers were dropped off and made their getaway by stealing a bank employee's car, he said.
"Ever since the deadly bank robbery, investigators have been working around the clock," said Silva, adding that the police continue their search for the driver who took the robbers to the bank.
Police on Saturday recovered a dark-colored Buick sedan seen on video dropping off the robbers before the Wednesday robbery. The car was found with no license plates abandoned in a neighborhood about a 10-minute drive from the bank.
Police said the driver dropped off three men, armed with three handguns and an AK-47, at a Bank of the West in Stockton. They took three women as hostages, including a customer and two employees, police said.
They fled in a bank employee's SUV, forcing her to drive, before shooting her and pushing her from the vehicle, Silva said. A second employee was later thrown or jumped from the SUV at 50 mph amid an hour-long pursuit and running gun battle with police, he said. Both women survived.
The shootout ended with two of the three robbers killed in a dramatic gunfight with hundreds of bullets fired. The surviving suspect, 19-year-old Jaime Ramos, was arrested after using a hostage, bank customer Misty Holt-Singh, as a human shield.
An autopsy may determine who shot Holt-Singh. She had left her 12-year-old daughter in the car when she went into the bank.
"She stopped at the bank to get some cash to get a haircut," said family friend and attorney Michael Platt. "She happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time."
Relatives of the two slain bank robbers have said that they believe police acted appropriately by engaging their sons in a gun battle. Martinez was killed with 30-year-old Gilbert Renteria Jr.
San Joaquin County Chief Deputy District Attorney Ron Freitas said that Ramos, the surviving suspect, could face at least 33 charges, including murder counts that make him eligible for a death sentence. Due in a Stockton courtroom Monday for the first time in this case, Ramos is being held without bail, and it's not clear if he has an attorney.
One woman underwent surgery, Freitas said, and the second was taken to a head-trauma center for care.
"We'll be learning a lot more about what happened in the bank and then what happened during the chase," Freitas said.
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